Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Writer and teacher Laurie Smith Murphy uses TENDING TO GRACE when she is teaching writing to her fifth-graders. This is what she wrote in a recent blog post ....
"Similes are like tiny jewels in a summer night sky. They help create a poetic portrait of a character or paint a scenic landscape in a reader's mind. They help take your writing to the next level. I love similes and I love teaching my students to use them in their writing. During read aloud, the students give the thumbs-up sign when they hear one. It's like discovering a secret or finding a stone with rings, and the students always get excited when they catch one. Or when they write one. They rush up to me or wave their hands feverishly to share. "Listen to my simile!" It's the same when they find one while they're reading. "Look what I found, Ms. Murphy!" It's like they've found a hidden treasure. And they have.
One of my favorite things to teach my 5th graders is writing. I use Kimberly Newton Fusco's book, TENDING TO GRACE, to teach about the use of language and, in particular, similes. I read it to them but they all have a copy so they can read along with me. When we hear how Cornelia, the main character, feels about her life, we stop and listen while I read a second time. Then we talk about how the author could have written how Cornelia feels lonely. But she doesn't, she writes, "I want to hide because my life, if it were a clothesline, would be the one with a sweater dangling by one sleeve, a blanket dragging in the mud, and a sock, unpaired and alone, tumbling to the road with the wind at its heel." What a lovely, haunting picture it paints of Cornelia's life.
One of the students' favorite similes discovered in Tending to Grace is the following: "The skin on her hand is thin, translucent, like china held up to the light." This compares Cornelia's mother's hand to china. Lenore is a fragile woman who leaves her daughter with her aunt because she is unable to take care for her herself. Another simile that describes Lenore is: "I want to tell her my whole life story in ten minutes, quicklike so the words tumble down fast and furious, like my mother's promises."
Give yourself, or your students, a path to more descriptive writing. Use similes."
Thanks, Laurie! And how lucky your students are to have a teacher who loves to write!